Move Your Body Like You Never Have Before
By Katherine Porada
Fitness, in all its forms, has always been a major part of my life. As a child, I danced ballet to songs from St. Elmo's Fire. As an undergraduate at Western Washington University, I taught aerobics classes. Today, running and weight lifting are a part of my regular regime. So, when asked to cover a newer, lesser-known fitness technique, I was more than willing to explore.
Juliu Horvath, a Romanian dancer, developed the Gyrotonic® Expansion System using key principles from ballet, swimming, gymnastics, yoga and tai chi. He built the equipment with the objective of strengthening the body, while utilizing proper breath control which, in turn, massages internal organs.
Gyrotonic® focuses on circular, rotational movement, rather than linear movement, as do most other fitness regimes. When lifting weights, for example, you move mostly up and down, and side to side. The Gyrotonic® Expansion System, the chief piece of exercise equipment, caters its movement to the design of the human body, and utilizes the design of the two ball-and-socket joints of the hips and the shoulders. The machine provides support and resistance throughout the movements, while the user controls range of motion and level of exertion. The workout uses three-dimensional movement exercises, which helps to balance and coordinate the whole body in relation to these joints. The rotational exercises performed on the apparatus are designed to mobilize the joints and strengthen, stretch and build muscular coordination.
One of the most important aspects of health and fitness is breathing. This is why yoga is incorporated into the Gyrotonic® system. Breathing properly oxygenates each part of the body to its greatest potential. This allows the body to maximize its resources for a better overall workout. Each exercise has its own set of breathing patterns. These breath patterns help organize the body in movement, which engages the body's core muscle groups and helps establish rhythm. With practice, the breath patterns become natural, deep and automatic.
Many athletes use Gyrotonic® for better muscular strength and coordination. Tennis and golf players use it to improve their swing, increase flexibility, as well as improve coordination. Dancers use it to gain muscular strength and body synchronization, which in turn helps with performance.
Although used by many different types of athletes, Gyrotonic® is suited for anyone. The one-on-one trainer/client atmosphere allows the instructor to get to know individual needs and mold a workout to fit a person's requirements.
Margie James started using the system two years ago. It has enabled her to maintain a high bone mass, 107% of a woman her age and height. "It immediately improved my posture and has helped me to become stronger throughout my entire body. I used to lift weights, which made me look bulkymy muscles are now long, lean and most importantly strong," James says. She also walks 30 minutes a day in addition to her two 90-minute sessions each week.
Mary Gassen has been doing Gyrotonic® sessions once a week for two years. "It allows you to get a full range of motion with every exercise performed which is good for muscle tone," Gassen says. "It is a part of the week I look forward to because after each workout I feel emotionally and mentally cleansed."
There is a no-equipment version of Gyrotonic® called Gyrokinesis. This may be suitable for users with gentler needs. Gyrokinesis is practiced in floor mat classes taught by a certified instructor. It works the entire body through seven natural elements of spinal movement: circular, forward, backward, left twist, right twist, left side and right side. Postures are not held for long periods of time, but are constantly changing with fluid movements that make each exercise appear to be almost dance-like.
I was amazed at how in tune with my body I felt during my session at Kinese Gyrotonic® Studio in Bellevue, with instructor and owner Karen Scherwood. I very quickly fell into a yoga state. Some of the exercises made my body move in ways that were unfamiliar to me. During my first exercise, I sat on a machine made predominantly of intricate, sculpted wood and rotated handles on two flat wheels within circles. Upon starting, I immediately felt my spine lengthen and my lungs open, partially due to Karen's reminders to breathe and to maintain my posture. After my body was accustomed to the movements, I was able to do them faster and more gracefully, which raised my heart rate. After the workout, I felt very relaxed and calm. These feelings are rarely experienced after my usual workout of a run followed by some weightlifting.
Connecting with one's own mental, emotional and physical levels is a key theme to maintaining a healthy mind and body. Fitness is a discovery of personal mysteries and finding your fitness niche is vital for a healthy lifestyle. Whatever your regime, as in the words of Karen, "I believe that increased movement and mobility help us to feel more fully alive," I couldn't agree with her more.
The Changing Room: 206-505-1553
Gyrotonic® Seattle: 206-784-7895
Karen Muller Gyrotonic®: 425-868-2796
Michelle McCauley: 253-725-7331